Working in a creative field requires a tough skin, and the music industry is no exception. Band, label, manager, agent, promoter - it doesn't matter in which part of the industry you work; you are bound to face more than a few bumps in the road. The trick is to deal with the disappointment, learn from it and move on towards your goals without getting sidetracked. Find out how to manage these common music business problems so you don't lose sight of where you want to go.
Music Industry Problem - No One is Responding to your Demo:
Music Industry Solution - A very, very common music industry issue, this one. The first thing you should know about dealing with demo disappointment is that almost every single one of your favorite bands has faced this let down, and in most cases, you WON'T get a response from your demo. It doesn't have to mean you are doing anything wrong per se - sometimes it just takes awhile to get the right demo to the right person. You can up your chances of getting the response you want by making sure you adhering to some basic demo ground rules. Need some help? Check out these articles:
The right approach is no guarantee of demo success, however. There are a few things extra things you can do to increase your chances:
- Keep building your profile by playing shows
- Pursue press coverage of your shows
- Keep your promo package up to date and keep labels informed about what you're doing
- Stay on top of your internet promotion tools, like Facebook, Twitter and your own blog
You might also consider releasing your own record. You can learn the pros and cons of this course of action here:
Music Industry Problem - The Review Isn't in the Magazine After All:
Music Industry Solution - Getting press for a new album or a live show can be hard work, especially in larger publications who generally look favorably on labels and bands who can throw a big load of advertising money their way. Hitting the wall when you're trying to convince people to cover your news is one thing, but being told by someone that a review will be in a certain issue of a newspaper/magazine or on a certain website and then having it never appear is doubly frustrating. How should you handle it?
Again, first of all, understand that this happens often, and it really isn't anything personal. Sometimes writers say that a review will appear just to appease you and sometimes they really think it is going to be there and are just as surprised as you when it's not. Getting bumped for bigger stories is part of the game, but you can make things better by following up on it. Put a call in to your contact at the publication and find out what happened. See if you can get them run it in the next issue instead. If you made a big deal about the review beforehand on your website or if your distributor has been using news of the review to promote your album, touch base with everyone and let them know what happened and when the review will resurface.
In most instances, there isn't much you can do to absolutely guarantee a review will come through when you think it will, but you can perfect your press game with the right approach. You can also build up a personal relationship with of the writers who are into your music. These articles can help:
- Album Press Release Template
- Tour Press Release Template
- Timing Your Press Release
- How to Write a Band Bio
- Career Profile: Music Journalist
- Interview: Ron Mexico
Music Industry Problem - No One is at the Show:
Music Industry Solution - Few things are as disheartening to everyone involved in a show than an empty room on the night of a gig - but it happens. The finger pointing will begin as the night wears on, but the bottom line is you can't MAKE people turn up to your show. If you find yourself faced with one of these shows, do your best to turn a negative into a positive by being gracious to everyone involved with the show so you are still welcome in that venue. And while there is no guarantee that the crowds will be pounding the door next time, there are things you can do help a gig get the buzz it needs. Check out this advice:
Music Industry Problem - The Gig is Cancelled:
Ah, nothing says "indie music" like the last minute canceled gig. At the "building an audience" level, most of the time bands will be working with promoters who put on shows for fun. Some of them are really great and as good as, if not better, than any promoter working in the bigger leagues. Some, well, aren't. When you're dealing with people who don't put on shows professionally, there is always a chance that something will come up that is more pressing for them and they will have to cancel a gig. You may also deal with people who want to put on a show for you, will plan to put on a show for you, and then realize on show night that they can't put on a show for you - but they don't really tell you that. (I once had a friend spend months going through the motions of booking a show for band I was working with, only to go M.I.A. as the show drew closer. The band and I discovered on the night of the show that the supposed venue was closed down. True story.)
The bottom line here is steel yourself for it and deal with it. When you don't have any pull and are trying to break into a new area, it happens. File it under "things that will be a lot funnier when we make it" and move on. Always be polite and gracious with anyone you deal with even as things are going up in smoke because you never know whose help you're going to need some day. Of course, there are things you can do to mitigate these kinds of surprises:
Music Industry Problem - We're Broke:
If nothing says indie music like disorganized gigs, then being broke is a close second. You can sell what seems like a lot of records and still be lucky to break even. You can play to good crowds every night and end up in debt at the end of the tour. You can promote sell out shows every night for a week in your local club and need to consider getting a second job to support your promotion habit. Forget swimming pools and movie stars - simply getting to the point where you can support yourself through your music requires a lot of hard work and patience. As long as the sacrifice is worth it to you, the best thing you can do is make peace with your bank balance, spend wisely (yes, the gatefold sleeve clear vinyl 10" is cool, but it's awfully expensive) and manage your money wisely. These articles will help:
- Door Split Deals
- Who Pays for Gig Promotion?
- Who Pays for Recording Costs?
- Does My Label Owe Me Money?
- Music Business Loans and Grants: How to Spend It
- Music Industry Investors
- Get Paid in Your Music Career
You may have noticed a theme in these music biz problems - that the bottom line is that disappointments are going to happen, and often they are out of your control. Look at them all as part of the ride, not the end of it. Learn from them and move on to better things.